That deeply personal experience, learned at the bedside of so many individual Canadians, has taught us important universal lessons:
- We have learned that dying is an integral and fundamentally human stage of living, and that when physical and emotional needs are sensitively met, the journey toward death – though always difficult – can be a rich and profound experience that gives meaning and completeness to life.
- We have learned that it is essential to manage pain and other symptoms effectively so that those facing death, and their loved ones, can devote their energies not to fighting physical discomfort, but to embracing the life of mind, heart, and spirit.
- We have learned that living with life-threatening illness is tough, demanding and intense for loved ones as well as the patient. But with practical, emotional, and spiritual support through all the stages of illness and bereavement, loved ones can also experience privileged moments of special communication, growth, and even joy. Such moments can be a shared gift.
- We have learned that everyone faces death in his or her own way. Retaining the power of individual choice – about medical treatments, about the care setting, about practical, emotional, and spiritual services – is essential. Exercising choice preserves dignity and prevents isolation from the daily business of living.
- We have learned that patients and their loved ones must be well-informed, active decision-makers and partners in the care team, prepared to be advocates for the quality of care they deserve at the end of life.
These are fundamental lessons, drawn from the living experience of hospice palliative care patients, families, volunteers and professionals over many years. They are lessons of hope, comfort and practical advice.
(Source: The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and the hospice palliative care movement, in partnership with The GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, launched the Living Lessons® campaign to open that public dialogue and to promote understanding of the quality care that is possible at the end of life.)